UPDATE: Porsha Evans explains why no DHAP information was on her computer.
[After this story was posted, Porsha Evans called The Independent Weekly to explain why the laptop had no information on it and to express her disappointment with the story, which has since been updated with her comments.]
After the Lafayette Housing Authority Board met Aug. 13 to fire five case managers involved with the suspect Disaster Housing Assistance Program, the contract workers were forced to return their laptop computers to the LHA. At least one of them, broadcaster Porsha Evans (whose real name is Beatrice Wilson), did not have a single trace of her clients' work on her computer. The computer did, however, contain personal information.
"They found nothing, no work product at all for almost three years," says Donald Fuselier, the only board member retained by City-Parish President Joey Durel in the wake of the troubling 2009 independent audit, which questioned a number of aspects of the DHAP, a program designed to help residents displaced by the 2005 and 2008 hurricanes. In part, auditors noted that the DHAP contract case managers, who were paid $37 an hour (after initially be hired at $11-$12 an hour), did not turn in time sheets yet were all paid for 40-hour work weeks when some of them had other jobs. While the auditors kicked up a hornet's nest with the DHAP - also noting that rent reasonableness documentation in the files, if it was in the file, appeared to be fabricated and that some of files themselves had zero supporting documents - they also shined a light on other serious problems with how the LHA conducts business. The audit's findings got the attention of the state legislative auditor's office and led to federal investigations of the local housing authority; those inquiries are ongoing.
"There was little or nothing as far as paper [files], too [on Evans' clients]," Fuselier says, noting that the other four case managers had some evidence of work on their computers, "but not as much work product as you'd expect."
"Maybe [Evans] kept it on a separate computer," suggests Fuselier, who also confirmed that investigators, including the FBI, are searching the computers' hard drives to determine if any information was deleted.
Evans, however, called this morning with an explanation for why clients' information was not on the computer. She maintains that the information was turned in electronically, on a regular basis, to HUD via a website. "The clients were never listed on that computer," she says. To this day, Evans says, she can still access the HUD site.
"To tell you the truth, I was the only person that went to work," Evans says."If you check HUD records, if you check those documents, those systems that we used every day, Porsha did all the work. My clients can testify to that. My clients, the landlords, and everybody else can tell you, when they needed to find somebody for DHAP, Porsha was there, every day. Didn't miss a day of work, didn't take a day of vacation."
Evans says she shared an office on Macon Drive with former Lafayette City-Parish Councilman Chris Williams and Myra Parker, both of whom were also DHAP case managers. "We shared an office with public housing. Those people in there can tell you who came to work every day. Even the maintenance people used to tell me, 'Porsha, we can count on you to open the doors for us.'" Evans did stipulate that DHAP case managers were not required to come into the office and declined to say how often Williams and Parker were in the office. "You could work wherever you wanted as long as you got this work done," she says.
Evans' claims about her work ethic are supported by Lafayette businesswoman Denice Skinner, who owns two homes on the disaster housing program. Skinner calls Evans an "excellent resource" for tenants because of her background and knowledge of the community. "She did so much for these people. She [worked] all the time, day and night, on the weekends. Even once at 10 o'clock at night I needed her, and she was there." Skinner also stipulates that the program, which LHA officials said in August was set to expire this month (which would have ended the need for the case managers at that time), was extended another six months.
LHA is using existing staff to administer the program.
When the five case managers were fired in mid-August, the total workload on the federally funded program was about 100 cases, LHA officials told this newspaper at the time. The LHA's primary responsibility on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/FEMA program was making the residents' rental assistance payments, along with help on utility payments and security deposits.
After the audit, case managers began turning in time sheets. The Independent Weekly was able to establish that one of them, Williams, claimed to be two places at once on a number of occasions.
On Aug. 21, The Daily Advertiser noted another discrepancy in a time sheet submitted by Wilson, a part-time radio and TV broadcaster (she hosts an LHA program, "A Place Called Home," on Acadiana Open Channel that airs Mondays at 4 p.m.) and political activist. The paper went back in its archives to find that Evans attended a political rally in July while claiming on her time sheet she was working on the DHAP:
Wilson's records state that she worked from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on July 7, an eight-hour day without a lunch break.
But The Daily Advertiser has photographs of Wilson attending a political rally for U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, who is running for the U.S. Senate against Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie. The event was held at Country Cuisine, a University Avenue restaurant owned by Williams' family. Williams also attended the rally, but his DHAP time card did not list him working at that time.
Read that story here.
This morning, Evans had a explanation - sort of. "Yeah, I went to the Charlie Melancon thing - on my lunch break. Sure did," she says. Evans, however, did not offer up why she failed to note the lunch break on her time sheet.
And there's more to the Evans story than just the DHAP controversy: the daily paper also reported on her long criminal history.
Evans says she is preparing to file suit to recover the money she is owed for work she performed on the DHAP. She says she was assigned 83 clients when she was hired for the program in 2007 and had about 58 when she was terminated. This morning she disputed LHA management's contention that only 100 families were on the program when the five case managers were terminated in mid-August, and her claim is supported by an email from the LHA today. At the time their contracts were terminated, case managers had the following: Evans, 47; Myra Liz Parker, 47; Chris Williams, 52; Linda Jefferson, 40; and Charlie Esie, 44.